General Aviation Market Segments
"General Aviation" or "GA” describes all aircraft activity not associated with large airlines or military aircraft. Because the market definition of General Aviation is so broad, we will break up the industry into three categories to get a simplified perspective. These three segments are defined as follows:
1) Uncertificated, Piston Power
This category is known as the "Homebuilt Market". Aviation enthusiasts buy kits from small manufacturers and assemble these aircraft at home for their personal use. In fewer cases they totally design, fabricate and assemble their own aircraft. This is currently a very active, but limited market. There are about 30,000 active US registered aircraft in this category, with many more in various stages of completion.
2) Certificated, Piston Power
This category is the largest segment of the GA industry and includes single engine 2-seat trainer aircraft, 4 to 6 seat personal airplanes and on up to multi-engine piston powered business aircraft with 10 to 12 seats. There are about 160,000 US registered airplanes in this category, and about 30% to 40% additional airplanes outside of the United States. Most of the current fleet was produced in the 1960's and 1970's by Beech, Cessna and Piper. The largest producers, Beech and Cessna, offer a number of piston powered models but obtain most of their revenue from their business jets.
3) Corporate / Government, Turbine Power
In some areas of the industry and government, the turbine powered category is called "Corporate Aviation" or “Business Aviation” rather than being included with General Aviation. Because prices are so much higher than piston powered aircraft, the customer base in this market segment is significantly different from the two previous categories. This class includes turbo-propeller and jet aircraft, usually flown by a professional crew of two. This market is numerically much smaller than category 2) above, but in recent years, over 95% of GA revenues from new sales come from this class.
There are about 20,000 US registered aircraft in the turbine powered class. These aircraft have a very good safety record, which is comparable to the airlines. Most of these aircraft are equipped for all weather flying, including de-ice and radar equipment. Prices for new turbine powered aircraft in this class range from about $2 million to over $50 million.
The Current GA Fleet Status
As a result of the reduction in manufacturing of piston engine airplanes in the past 20 years, the active piston powered general aviation fleet is aging. Because of the higher maintenance costs of these older airplanes, and the difficulty in finding high octane leaded aviation gasoline in various parts of the world, some of these aircraft will be replaced by new generation turboprop airplanes. The airlines and military services use turbine fuel and it is therefore readily available worldwide. Economical hybrid aircraft models will be attractive replacement options for these aging aircraft.
The market classes we are interested in General Aviation are the twin engine piston fleet, turboprops and turbo jets. FAA estimates the size of these categories (fixed wing) as follows:
|Twin piston:||16,474 aircraft|
In addition to these USA registered aircraft, about 40% more are based outside of the USA.
The Regional Airline Market
Although we expect the hybrid to enter first in GA markets, there will be an obvious need for this design in the 19 to 50+ regional-commuter airline market. Statistics regarding worldwide registrations in this category are not readily available; however we do have the statistics of the total number of airplanes produced worldwide in this category in the last 40 years. These are:
|Turboprop, 19-100 seats:||11,800|
|Jet, 27-100 seats:||5,540|
There are an unknown number remaining in service, maybe 50% or more. A hybrid design, with its fuel efficiency, cabin comfort and the ability to operate safely from smaller airports, could provide a much-needed boost to airline service to smaller communities. Many smaller regional jets which have high fuel consumption could be replaced with a hybrid.
Commercial and Government Markets
Hybrid designs would be expected to appeal to corporate or commercial users although there will also be sales to private operators and government/military customers. Commercial, government and military operators prefer turbine power because of reliability, performance, and lower “life cycle” costs. In some countries only turbine fuel is available and there is concern in the industry that in the future high octane leaded gasoline for higher powered piston engines will not be available.
Air Taxi and Air Charter Activity
According to FAA records there are approximately 2,900 air-taxi operators. Approximately 11,000 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are used for these operations (including cargo), about 6,000 of which are turbine powered. In addition to transporting passengers, these operators provide varied services including air ambulance, light cargo, patrol service, etc. More than 60% of this fleet is more than 20 years old, especially the piston powered aircraft, many of which are over 30 years old. A 6 to 8 passenger hybrid design, with its economy, safety and passenger comfort would be a natural fit to replace many of these aging airplanes.